Tuesday, September 12, 2006

An Arab Apologizes

Part of my rage at the consequences of 9/11 is aimed at how I permanently changed, how my fellow citizens changed, when it came to viewing Muslim people. Before 9/11, I paid not one lick of attention to a family where the woman wore her hijab anymore than I paid attention to a group of nuns. I might be mildly curious. I would be more curious, to be honest, seeing a bunch of new recruits all shaved head and square shouldered wearing fatigues and schlepping all their earthly belongings in a sack through the airport. How does their mom feel? I would wonder.

9/11 changed my naive acceptence. I sweated through a plane flight sitting behind an Arab, Muslim man (who also sweated, I should note, profusely) with a laptop. I contemplated how I would kill him should he do anything crazy. I contemplated how I could stop him. My ideas were very specific. Adrenalin pumped through my veins. There is no way I could be alone in my mental rehearsals. The anxiety seeped out of the skin of everone from the stewardesses to the guy across the aisle. I hated myself for having these thoughts. I despised the terrorists at that moment for putting such homocidal ideas in my head.

These murderous thoughts come from me, the same girl who saved a baby Cardinal in my backyard as teen and nursed it to adulthood. That crazy Cardinal never flew quite right but summered in our backyard for as long as we lived there with his wife and kids.

Muslims died in the Towers on 9/11. I read tributes. Surely their community felt the loss, too. Was it just my imagination or wasn't the emphasis on loving our neighbor demeaning? Was I just out of touch? I could not, for the life of me, understand the admonitions from President Bush to be tolerant. When had Muslim-Americans ever been the subject of abuse? Mohammed Ali was crowned Sportsman of the Century. Hello? Rememeber him? Hakeem Olajuwon the Houston Rocket is beloved here.

And yet, where were these great sportsmen and leaders? Did their grief just not get noticed by the press? Did they fear for their own lives if they spoke up? Did they secretly agree with the terrorists? The silence was deafening. After the attacks, it seemed unseemly to say anything. Five years later, though, I'm sick and tired of the silence. I want to hear the "moderate" Muslims speak out. Loudly.

Emilio Karim Dabul speaks out in this NY Post OpEd. Thank you, Mr. Dabul for your words. I hope they represent the majority of Muslim Americans. Here is his conclusion.

The men who killed 3,000 of our citizens on 9/11 in all likelihood died saying prayers to Allah, and that by itself is one of the most horrific things to me about that day.

And, while my grandparents never waged a jihad, their attitudes toward Jews weren't that much different than Mohammed Atta's. No, they didn't support the Holocaust, but they did believe that Jews were trouble in many different ways, and those sorts of beliefs were passed on to me before I'd ever actually met a Jew.

I'm sorry for that, for ever believing that anything that my grandparents or other relatives had to say about Jews or Israel, for that matter, had any real resemblance to truth. It took me years to realize that I'd been conned into believing the generalizations and stereotypes that millions around the Arab world buy into: that Jews, America and Israel are our main problem.

One look at the average Arab regime should alert us to the fact that the problem, dear Achmed, lies not overseas or next door in Tel Aviv, but in the brutal, corrupt despots that we have bred from country to country in the Mideast, across the span of history. That history and its corresponding economic devastation is the main reason I reside on New York City's West Bank - New Jersey - not the one near Jerusalem. On my worst day, I'm happy about that fact. I'd rather be here than there, and experience the freedom and boundless opportunities that were mostly unknown to so many generations of my family in the Mideast.

For as long as I live, the image of those towers falling, as I watched in horror and disbelief from the corner of 40th and Fifth, will be for me my Pearl Harbor, for in that instant I recognized that not only was our city under attack - so was our freedom.

It still is. And will continue to be for years to come. And the threat is not from within, but from Islamic fascists who desperately want to destroy the freedom and opportunities that millions the world over still seek.

Five years after that awful day, it's time for all Arab-Americans, and Arabs around the world, to protest against Islamic fascism, to raise our voices - and, where necessary, our arms - against these tyrants until their plague of terror has been driven from the face of the earth forever.

Emilio Karim Dabul is a freelance writer and PR consultant living in New Jersey

Read the whole thing.

More public condemnation would go a long way to alleviate the common man's suspicians. Most people feel a natural sympathy to those who are innocent but receive guilt by association. When the wacko bombed the abortion clinic, as Mr. Dabul mentioned, I was horrified. Don't claim to be a Christian and murder. His action was rightly condemned.

Terrorism is rightly condemned. While courageous Muslims who love life informed on and continue to help thwart terrorism, it seems to me that the least Western, free, wealthy Muslims can do is condemn the horror committed in the name of their religion.


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